Monthly Archives: September 2009

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BIBLICAL HOLINESS?


For born again believers in Jesus, holiness is not a suggestion or an option.  It is a an non-negotiable characteristic that should define each of us.  1 Peter 1:14-15 says: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior”.  Then in verse 16, Peter repeats God’s words in Leviticus 11:44: “you shall be holy, for I am holy”.

But, what is holiness?  Let’s start off with what holiness is not. It isn’t carrying around a fifty pound Bible looking pious. It isn’t walking around with a frown on your face and a finger pointing at everyone. It isn’t standing on your soap box preaching “turn or burn, baby” to everyone you meet. No, these do not constitute holiness.

My simple definition of holiness is this –  bringing pleasure to God. The word holiness comes from the same root word as the word “sanctify”, which means to be set apart. In practical terms it means that we are to separate ourselves from the ways, thoughts, and motives of the world and to be led in total surrender to the Holy Spirit.  It must be stated that sanctification was never intended to mean running  away form society and living like a hermit on a deserted mountain top. On the contrary, as believers we are to be lights in a dark world, and to be a testimony to the wonderful saving grace of Jesus. We are to be insulated from the world, not isolated from it.  Think about a thermos of hot chocolate on a cold wintry day. The hot chocolate is insulated from the cold so it stays hot even though it is out in the cold. The cold just doesn’t get in. This is how we are to be – not isolated from the world, but out in it without it coming into us.

Modern Christianity, however, has forgotten the meaning of insulated.  There is a definite fine line between what is acceptable behavior for a Christian and what is not, and that line is the Word of God.  The Bible draws a very clear line on God’s standard of holiness.  The trouble is, however, is that many Christians have blurred that line. Instead of being insulated, we have let the “cold” in and lost our “heat”.  Sadly, behavior that is called “sin” in the Bible doesn’t even turn our heads anymore.

For example, divorce and remarriage is as common in Christian marriages as is in non Christian marriages. Premarital sex has become all to common with those in the church. Pornography has crept into an astounding number of Christian men’s  lives.  Many believers I have talked to over the years have no problem going to movies that Jesus just wouldn’t approve of.  Secular books that promote self centered thinking and worldly values are read without blinking an eye, and are then emulated in daily life. And gossip has ravaged many churches and damaged many lives.

My friends, we’ve forgotten that EVERYTHING that falls short of God’s holy standard is an abomination in His eyes.  Have we forgotten the price that had to be paid for our sins? Have we forgotten the cross?  Have we torn ourselves away from God’s loving arms and embraced the world’s standards? Have we, the holy, sanctified bride of Christ committed adultery with the world?  Have we so adopted a secular world view that there is no visible difference between the church and the world?

Imagine for a moment that you are attending a wedding. The groom is in the front of the church, well groomed and dressed with an impeccably neat tuxedo waiting for his bride to walk down the aisle. As the music starts playing the Wedding March, your eyes fix on the bride.  However, as she walks toward her groom, you notice something wrong, something terribly wrong.  Her wedding dress is soiled and wrinkled, her veil is ripped, her shoes have mud on them, her face is smudged with dirt, and her hair is a mess of knots and tangles. 

How do you think the groom would feel? He would be deeply hurt at her lack of preparation for their big day.  Do you see the parallel between this picture and the relationship between the church (the bride) and our groom (Jesus)? Are we going to present ourselves to our groom as a clean, chaste virgin beautifully adorned for her husband or as a sin stained adulteress?

In a discussion about holiness, we must remember that none of us is perfect and none of us has “arrived”.  However, this is not an excuse for sloppy obedience and compromised discipleship. We must strive daily for lives that bring glory to God, and reckon the fact that we have everything necessary to live lives pleasing to God because of the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  As we surrender to Him and give Him control, holiness will become more and more evident in our lives.

Fellow disciple of Jesus, now is the time for a revival of holiness within the church.  No more fence straddling. No more mediocre, lukewarm discipleship. It’s time for all of us to get on our faces and repent of our unholiness.  it’s time for every believer to be broken and to surrender to the Holy Spirit. it’s time to deny ourselves, take up our  cross, and follow Jesus.  It’s time to bring pleasure to God.

THE WHOLENESS OF BROKENNESS


When we hear the word “broken”, our thoughts probably conjure up a negative image.  Something that is broken is usually not wanted and is considered useless to us.  When talking about a person, someone who is described as broken is usually in dire straights and at a precarious point in his or her life. No one wants to be ” broken”.

In God’s dictionary, however, brokenness is a crucial characteristic for a Christian. In Psalm 51, David’s psalm of repentance after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan for his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba and his successfully murderous plan against her husband Uriah, David said in verses 16 and 17: “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; you are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise”.  In Psalm 34, his psalm that expresses the joy of God’s forgiveness, David said in verse 18: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. 

Additionally, in Isaiah 57:15, the prophet said: “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy. ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the  contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite”.  And finally, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus said this in verse 3:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  Who are the “poor in spirit” ?  Those who are spiritually broken.

You see, brokenness, spiritual brokenness, is very important to God. But just what is spiritual brokenness? First let me tell you what it  is not. It’s not walking around with a gloomy frown on your face wailing “woe is me”. It is not looking bitter like you just got through sucking on a sour lemon. It is not living aimlessly without purpose or a plan. To put it simply, brokenness is understanding the fact that without God you are spiritually bankrupt.  It is dying to self (more on this in a later blog) and giving Him the reigns of your life. In my previous blog, I talked about surrender.  Surrender and brokenness go hand-in-hand – spiritual brokenness is surrendering your will to Him. 

Spiritual brokenness is knowing that, without God, you are, and can do, nothing.  It is a total, desperate dependence on Him in every aspect of life. It is a cry from the depths of your soul that shouts: “God I need You; God I want You; God, You are everything to me”! In his song entitled “I Can’t Live Without You”, Dennis Jernigan penned these words that simply, but clearly, define spiritual brokenness;  “I can’t live without You, here in my life. I can’t live without You, how could I survive.  I know life without You is just getting by. I can’t live without You in my life”.

Now I know that brokenness is not a popular topic in most Christian circles and is not talked about in many churches because it sounds so negative.  However, brokenness is anything but negative!!  It is the way to the heart of God. Think for a moment about a wild stallion that a rancher buys.  It is strong, beautiful…and wild! It calls the shots and does what it wants.  It has enormous potential to the rancher but in it’s wild state it is not useful to him.  So the master must “break” the horse of it’s will. To be sure, the horse doesn’t like the breaking process and fights the rancher with all his strength.  But, after a long and tedious process, the beautiful, wild horse is now broken and surrendered to the master, and can now fulfill the purpose for which the rancher purchased him. Also, before it is broken, the wild stallion will not sit still long enough to experience the gentle caress and loving care of his master. But after it is broken, it now understands just how much his master loves him, and experiences his warm embrace and gentle care.

Aren’t we like that wild stallion – created with lots of potential but “wild”?  We call the shots and our will takes center stage. But when we trust in Jesus as Savior (i.e.:are purchased by our Master) He begins the long process of breaking us of our will so that He can be in control.  Like the wild horse, we don’t like the breaking process.  It hurts and we fight against God with all our strength.  After all, we want to be in charge! For some, unfortunately, they fight Him all their lives and never come to the point of brokenness (and miss out on the most important thing in life – intimacy with God).  However, for those who are finally broken of “self”,  they become useful to God, bear much fruit,  and fulfill the destiny He has planned for them in this life.  And, most importantly, they will come into an intimate, loving relationship with their Master.

My friend, are you on the journey of brokenness? Do you understand that God is everything, and I mean absolutely everything, in your life?  Have you surrendered your will to Him so that His will for you is all you desire?  Brokenness is the only way to wholeness.  Be broken in his hands and experience the wholeness that only He can give!